By Bomani Jones
Special to Page 2

Whaddya know, Ohio State and Michigan lived up to the hype. This season has been called boring by more than a few observers, but it was hard to ask for anything more than Saturday's 42-39 show at The 'Shoe.

The rematch talk started immediately. Then Sunday's BCS standings kept Michigan one spot behind the top-ranked Buckeyes, making another OSU-Michigan battle well within reason.

That's great, right? Who wouldn't want to see the Buckeyes and Wolverines do it again?

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(Raises hand.)

(Puts hand back down.)

(Shakes hand slowly.)

Let's think about this for a second, shall we?

Five reasons OSU and Michigan should run it back

1. These are, without question, the two best teams in America.

Before Saturday, we knew Ohio State was the best team in the country, but we were sort of guessing with Michigan. Its marquee win was against a Notre Dame team that hasn't beaten a team better than hot-and-cold Georgia Tech. Michigan also has a win against Wisconsin, which also hasn't beaten anyone of note.

Saturday made it clear that Michigan is almost as good as Ohio State, and the space between them is very small. The game was just as close as the score indicated, and no other team has had a moment all season when it would have stayed within three points of Ohio State.

Troy Smith
Gregory Shamus / Getty Images
Troy Smith has already stoked the fire for a potential rematch with his postgame comments on Saturday.

2. Troy Smith's "the best team won" line adds the sort of bulletin board gossip that makes good games great.

With knowledge that a rematch was entirely possible, Smith showed some brass with that one. It doesn't matter that Lloyd Carr said the same thing. Losing coaches are supposed to say those things.

Winning quarterbacks, typically, are not.

As sure as Smith sounded, you can't help but wonder if he really wanted to say, "if it wasn't for that fumble, we'd have put fiddy on 'em."

Something tells me Michigan's players took Smith's words similarly. That guarantees a rematch would have additional intensity, if it's possible to get more intense than an Ohio State-Michigan game.

3. We could get an entirely different game than we got Saturday.

It might not have seemed like it, but both of those teams actually have really good defenses. Michigan's run defense had been impenetrable before being gashed by Antonio Pittman and Chris Wells. Ohio State hadn't given up more than 17 points in a game before the Wolverines put up 39.

Saturday's game was a lot like last season's Rose Bowl – 'twas a great game, but not because both teams played their best games. A more defensive game could easily happen if OSU and Michigan met again, and that could be just as suspenseful and compelling as the first go-round without feeling like a rerun.

BCS cartoon
Kurt Snibbe

4. We don't need another martyr.

Yeah, it's generally assumed that you only get one bite at the apple in college football. But as good as Michigan is, there's guaranteed to be lots of whining from folks in Big Ten country about how it's unfair that Michigan is being penalized for being in the same conference as the best team in the country.

And it would be hard to argue with them. The Wolverines are the only team with a chance of even staying close with Ohio State. Any other game could wind up like the 2005 Orange Bowl.

Michigan would be the latest BCS martyr, joining Miami in 2000, Oregon in '01, USC in '03 and Auburn in '04.

The last thing the world needs is a new reason to complain about the BCS. Nobody likes the damn thing. We get that. But it's not going anywhere.

Michigan's missing the chance at the crystal ball could just add to the noise. And the most unfortunate of annals.

Wolverine
20th Century Fox
Bomani Jones would rather duke it out with this guy than listen to weeks of Notre Dame hype. Can you blame him?

5. I'd rather slap box with Wolverine than deal with the coverage that would come with Notre Dame in the BCS Championship.

Not the Wolverines, but Logan's alter ego.

Oh man, imagine if Arkansas wins out and Notre Dame beats USC, which could help the Irish scale the BCS standings to make it to Glendale. It's a highly unlikely scenario, but disturbing enough to merit discussion.

Ready to hear about Jeff Samardzija's baseball career? What about Tom Zbikowski's boxing career?

Already knew about those things? Well, did you know Brady Quinn's sister is married to A.J. Hawk? And didn't A.J. Hawk go to Ohio State?

Ready to go through a few more weeks of that? Didn't think so.

Plus, OSU would obliterate ND. Notre Dame's defensive backs would get lit up so badly that they'd be able to count the little holes in the backs of Ted Ginn's and Anthony Gonzalez's jerseys by the end of the first half.

Five reasons one was enough

1. Sorry, Michigan. You had your chance.

Ball kinda bounces that way, guys. It's not just about having the second-best team. It's also about having the second-best season, and it's hard to say that about the Wolverines when their best wins are over teams who have won zero games of consequence this season. With that in mind …

John David Booty
Colin Erie / US PRESSWIRE
Do John David Booty and the Trojans deserve a shot at Ohio State more than Michigan deserves a rematch?

2. There's a team that deserves the chance at Ohio State more than Michigan.

That would be USC. Sure, the Trojans lost to Oregon State, but they've got big wins over Arkansas and Cal, two teams better than anyone Michigan beat. Darren McFadden may have been hobbled, but USC knocked the dust off those boys. Half a hundred is half a hundred, so long as the Hogs had 11 men on the field.

Michigan might mop the floor with USC, but the Trojans have done more this season. That should count more right now than anything else.

3. Uh, remember the last time this happened?

Ten years ago, Florida lost to Florida State 24-21 in the last game of the season, but got back to second in the polls after the SEC Championship. That earned the Gators a trip to the Sugar Bowl against the Noles.

Florida then embarrassed Florida State in a game that was as suspenseful as a bad sequel. Perhaps that means Florida deserved to play for the championship, but that doesn't change the fact the game wasn't too interesting.

Florida proved to be the best team in America, deserving of a place in the championship game. But I didn't go to Florida, so I don't really care what they deserved.

Most folks have given up on hoping the BCS will produce a true national champion. But they still watch the last game of the season because they figure they'll get a good game. That's the least the BCS could do.

But if this year is anything like '96, when a greatly hyped rematch was a serious letdown, Michigan can stay home.

4. We're quickly approaching Bo and Woody overload.

OK, I'm down for appreciating history and being respectful of the dead. But Lou Holtz said that Bo and Woody had a hand in making the winning numbers in the Ohio Lottery's Saturday evening Pick 4 "4239," strikingly similar to Saturday's 42-39 score.

That's too much. I'm no theologian, but things are a widdle bit out of hand when people start saying that football coaches in heaven are runnin' numbers.

5. Another full season of SEC bitchin' would be wack, even if it would be totally justified.

Ronnie Brown
John Reed / US PRESSWIRE
Ronnie Brown and the undefeated 2004 Auburn Tigers are a martyr of the Bowl Championship Series system.

There's no way that SEC fans, after watching their teams cannibalize themselves during their brutal conference schedules, would stay silent while Michigan got a do-over. Especially not if Arkansas goes undefeated in the SEC and wins the SEC Championship Game. Leaving either the Razorbacks or Florida out of the party would bring more attention to one of college football's trickiest head-scratchers – how can it be nearly impossible for the nation's best conference to produce the national champion?

The worst part? SEC fans would probably keep whining for years. Folks in Baton Rouge are still pissed that USC calls itself the 2003 national champion. I bet Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams would skip their NFL games – where they get paid – if the '04 Trojans challenged the '04 Auburn Tigers to play a pickup game on a Sunday afternoon.

Ready for a few more years of that? Didn't think so.

But none of this matters for one big ol' reason.

The reason it's all good either way

Troy Smith will be in Glendale no matter what

Talk about punctuating a Heisman season. Saturday's game showed the story behind Smith's numbers – it's hard to think of the last time a college quarterback has looked as in control of games as Smith does. His posture is perfect, his timing precise, his patience virtuous. While Vince Young's legend was built on the uncommon ability to react to what was thrown at him, Smith seems to know what's going to happen before it does and is simply buying enough time to do what he wants to do. It's breathtaking; anyone who misses his last game must not have a clue.

And anyone who thinks Michigan, USC or any other team not playing on Sundays could beat Smith and the Buckeyes is foolish.

No matter the opponent, the next Heisman winner and the next national champion are Must-See TV.

Bomani Jones is a frequent contributor to Page 2. Tell him how you feel at readers@bomanijones.com.




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PROS, CONS OF REMATCH